Measles – What’s The Big Deal?

2 06 2016

Why are public health people excited about a handful of measles cases?

Right now there’s an outbreak in Arizona. As of the moment I’m writing these words, outbreak in this instance means 11 cases. Doesn’t sound like a big deal.

But, there are reasons for concern.

To put some perspective on this, prior to 1980, before most kids were getting immunized against measles, infection caused 2.6 million deaths each year.

Measles is wildly contagious. Let’s say I’m infected with measles—I pop into the local Walmart’s restroom, do my thing, wash my hands, and cough before I go out the door. Everyone who enters that restroom for the next two hours will be exposed to the virus, which is hanging in the air and also waiting on the countertops, taps, and doorknob.

Just walk into the restroom and you’re exposed. It’s that easy to pick up.

Protection comes through immunization, although there are some who have been immunized who will still become infected. No vaccine protects 100% of the people 100% of the time.

Keeping your hands clean and away from your eyes, nose, and mouth also helps to prevent infection.

When you have measles, you will almost surely get a rash. What most of us don’t realize is measles can bring so much more than a few red spots:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the brain, which may lead to deafness or intellectual disability
  • SSPE – a fatal disease which lurks in the body for years after the initial measles infection disappears
  • Death

When you can become infected by simply breathing the air an infected person passed through two hours ago, it’s reason enough to get excited.

Make sure your family is protected through immunization, and check with your healthcare provider if you’re not clear about your family’s immunization history.

Preventing measles is worth a minute of our time.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Gambling With Risk Is Not Worth It

6 04 2015

I can’t think of a vaccine-preventable disease that kills or permanently damages 100 percent of those infected.

It’s a safe bet that if there were such a disease, we’d all be vaccinated against it. We’d all demand to be vaccinated against it.

The diseases we can prevent vary in how they affect us. Some, such as measles, will infect almost every person not protected by a vaccine. They’ll probably not feel good, but the diseases won’t kill or permanently damage every person.

In the case of measles, about one out of 1,000 infected kids will experience swelling of the brain, and one or two will die from the infection.

So not every person will be killed or permanently damaged.

Meningitis may infect a lot of people. Most are walking around with the bacteria in their nose or throat but they’re not going to get sick.

Rarely, someone will become infected and will get sick. And when that happens, it can cause brain damage, loss of hearing, loss of limbs, or death.

But it’s another disease that’s not going to kill or permanently damage everyone infected.

We could go through each vaccine-preventable disease and talk about how many infected people will have permanent damage or die from the infection. In all cases, the majority of those infected will live, and they will have no permanent damage from the disease.

I still get my kids vaccinated against every disease for which there is a vaccine.

No one is more precious to me than my girls and every parent I know feels the same about their kids. Dad and daughter on beach

I can’t risk either of my children living with or dying from an infection I could have prevented with a quick vaccination.

I’ve been reading about vaccines for two decades. We have more scientists on our advisory board than I can count, and I’ve been listening to them talk about every aspect of vaccines and vaccinations for two decades.

There is nothing that is going to happen from vaccinating my girls other than a sore arm or short fever. I can live with that. More to the point, they can live with that. The risk for my girls is not in the vaccine, but in the not vaccinating.

When my girls were tiny, I buckled them in before driving anywhere, and as they grew older, I wouldn’t take the car out of park until they were buckled.

Of all of the cars on the road at any one time, very few of them will be in an accident. And few of those accidents will result in permanent damage or the death of a person. We all know that. We still buckle our kids in before we leave the driveway.

It doesn’t matter how small the risk is to our kids, if we can protect them, we will.

The next time you hear a friend say they’re not going to vaccinate their kids, or they’re going to wait and stretch out the vaccines over time, take a minute to talk to them about why we practice prevention, even when the odds are in our favor.

 

by Trish Parnell





And The National Immunization Survey Says . . .

28 08 2014

In 1994, the CDC began collecting information about the vaccination of children ages 19—35 months. They did this through a survey called the National Immunization Survey (NIS), and they’re still doing it.

The information they collect gives us a good picture of how well-covered our little ones are by the vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

CDC does similar surveys on teens, adults, and also specifically, flu.

The results from the latest survey on children ages 19—35 months are:

  • Most parents are getting their kids vaccinated against preventable diseases.
  • We need to be more vigilant about protecting our two-year-olds through vaccination. They aren’t getting all the recommended doses.
  • Seventeen states had less than 90% coverage with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Communities need 95% coverage to keep measles under control. Even then, when there are groups of people not protected by the MMR vaccine, they’re at risk for measles.

Dr. Alan Hinman does a nice job of getting into the measles outbreak we’ve had this past year in his blog post on the Value of Vaccination website. Recommended reading!

To dive into all the details of the 2013 NIS, CDC’s MMWR provides the facts and figures.





Why We Talk About Immunizations

25 04 2014

There are so many ways to prevent infections, I sometimes wonder why we spend the vast majority of our time talking about immunizations.

Well, yesterday the CDC came out with data that are so astounding, all I could think when I listened was: That’s why!

The CDC looked back at children born between 1994 and 2013, and estimated that vaccination will prevent:

  • about 322 million illnesses
  • 21 million hospitalizations
  • and 732,000 deaths over the children’s lifetime

And, of less importance than a child’s life but good to know, the prevention of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths nets a savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.4 trillion in total societal costs. That ain’t hay, as my dad used to say.

I’m happily highlighting these numbers because it’s World Immunization Week, and because the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Thanks to the VFC, vaccines are provided at no cost to uninsured kids in our country.

20-year-infographicAbout 25 years ago, there was a big measles outbreak in the US. We saw approximately 55,000 cases of measles and more than 100 deaths. Come to find out, this outbreak was primarily due to uninsured children not being vaccinated.

Shortly after the outbreak, the VFC program was established with the hope that such an event would never be repeated.

We are currently seeing small outbreaks of measles cases in the US. Unlike 25 years ago, these outbreaks are primarily due to a small number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.

Measles was eliminated from the US in 2000, but not from the world. It’s estimated that 20 million people on this planet get measles each year, and 122,000 die from the disease. When unvaccinated individuals in this country travel to other countries, or interact with visitors from other lands, they are at risk for measles.

The symptoms of measles include the typical rash, fever, cough, runny nose, tiredness, red and watery eyes, and sometimes little white spots in the mouth. The symptoms stay for several days before gradually disappearing. However, complications are not uncommon. According to the CDC: About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications, including:

  • Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
  • Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
  • Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.

These complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old.

Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. (This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.) For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

In developing countries, where malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency are common, measles has been known to kill as many as one out of four people. It is the leading cause of blindness among African children.

I look at these statistics and I think: Oh yes, this is the other reason we spend so much time talking about immunizations.

If I may appropriate and paraphrase something I heard the other day: Mom and dad, choosing not to vaccinate or to delay vaccination of your children is like choosing to put them in their car seats only on Thursdays when the sun is shining.

Don’t be a part of that small minority of parents who are afraid to proactively protect their children. Call your child’s healthcare provider today and make sure he or she is current on all immunizations.

Oh, and happy World Immunization Week.

 

by Trish Parnell

(Thanks to Liz Szabo for the thing I heard the other day.)





Baby Armor

6 03 2014

And now, a timely reminder from CDC:PSA-superbaby

It’s easy for parents to think of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or whooping cough as issues of the past, but we know that most of these diseases still persist around the world.

Just last year a higher than normal number of measles cases were reported in the U.S., including an outbreak of 58 cases in New York City that was the largest reported outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996.

Making sure children get all of their vaccines is the most important thing parents can do to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases before their second birthday. And CDC has created a series of print PSAs encouraging just that (including an adorable  super baby version).

CDC also has immunization schedules available for all ages and a handy scheduling tool that allows you to enter your child’s birth date and print out a custom copy of his or her personal immunization schedule.

As winter begins to fade and a new spring season starts creeping up, don’t forget to schedule your pediatrician’s visits and discuss vaccinations with your doctor. Let’s give our little super heroes the best protection we can.





CDC – Working 24/7

20 04 2013

Welcome to NIIW!

Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a disease that could be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. Millions more children survive, but are left severely disabled. Vaccines have the power not only to save, but also transform lives by protecting against disease – giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school, and improve their lives.  Vaccination campaigns sometimes provide the only contact with health care services that children receive in their early years of life.

Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions—it currently averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles.

cdc blogImmunization is a global health priority at CDC focusing on polio eradication, reducing measles deaths, and strengthening immunization systems. CDC works closely with a wide variety of partners in more than 60 countries to vaccinate children and provide technical assistance to ministries of health to strengthen and expand countries’ abilities to create, carry out, and evaluate their national immunization programs.

Too few people realize that the health of Americans and the health of people around the world are inextricably linked. Viruses don’t respect borders, so they travel easily within countries and across continents. By helping to stop vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) globally, CDC is also helping to protect people in the United States against importations of VPDs from other countries.

For example, in 2011, there were 220 reported cases of measles in the United States—200 of the 220 cases were brought into the U.S. from other countries with measles outbreaks.

The most effective and least expensive way to protect Americans from diseases and other health threats that begin overseas is to stop them before they spread to our shores. CDC works 24/7 to protect the American people from disease both in the United States and overseas. CDC has dedicated and caring experts in over 60 countries. They detect and control outbreaks at their source, saving lives and reducing healthcare costs. In 2012, CDC responded to over 200 outbreaks around the world, preventing disease spread to the U.S.

CDC’s global health activities protect Americans at home and save lives abroad. They reduce the need for U.S. assistance and create goodwill and good relationships with global neighbors.

Thanks to the CDC for sharing this information.





A Mother’s Legacy

25 06 2012

I would like to tell you about my mother and all mothers like her who suffered through the loss of a child from an infectious disease. Raising a family in the hills of Kentucky, where most people were too poor to pay for the little, if any, medical help available, my mother struggled to keep her family healthy.

When one of her babies became seriously ill, my mother and her parents did everything they could to try and help her. Despite their efforts, my mother watched her child, Patsy Lynn, die from whooping cough. While making arrangements for Patsy’s funeral my mother learned that another one of her children was gravely ill. Both children were buried on the same day, in the same casket, in the same grave next to my mother’s church.

After the death of two children, my family was able to relocate to the Cincinnati area where medical attention was more readily available. We all had our vaccines as my mother was determined not to lose another child to unseen viruses and she insisted on washing and boiling everything that we touched.

I lived through the effect the loss had upon my mother’s life. The fear of disease was so real then, but many of us today forget what it was like to live in a time when diseases like measles, polio and smallpox were so much more common and deadly.

I remember the time that I was not allowed to play with a friend because her mother had been sent to the “TB hospital” and I vividly remember the Sunday that we spent standing in the long lines to receive our sugar cubes laced with the polio vaccine.

During the early ’60s, I remember being put to bed in a dark room when it was thought I might have the measles. Most of all, I’ll never forget that several of my teachers wore braces because of the effects of polio.

My mother tried her best to prevent us from succumbing to any disease which may shorten our lives, so I’m thankful that when she died of cancer in 1982 she did not know that I had somehow contracted the hepatitis B virus.

In June 1995, I was diagnosed with hepatitis B about a week before my 25th wedding anniversary. A doctor told my husband that I had a sexually transmitted disease and that he should be tested and vaccinated. What the doctor failed to tell us at the time was that this hepatitis could be spread in many other ways. I had complete trust in my husband and, thank God he had faith and trust in me, so this suggestion of sexually promiscuity did not harm our marriage.

Within the week we were informed that my husband tested negative, as did my children, who have all been vaccinated.

I have tried for years to find out where I got the virus. Could it have been from my mother who died of liver cancer? Did I get it in grade school, or from dental work, surgeries? Did I get it in one of the hospitals or clinics where I have worked as an interpreter? Did I get it from a child who ran into me on the playground, or from the little girl who bit me while I was working in the Cincinnati Public Schools?

The only thing I can be sure of is that I did not get hepatitis B from sexual contact, drug use or tattoos. However, I have now arrived at a place of peace in my life by accepting the fact that I will never know the path of transmission—and I no longer search for that answer.

And this is my mother’s legacy to me: protect your children the best you can.

By Barbra Anne Malapelli Haun